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Deliberation, Citizen Science and Covid‐19

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Rather than aiming to produce more ‘rational’ or more ‘other‐regarding’ citizen judgements (the outcome of which is uncertain), deliberative democratic exercises should be re‐designed to maximise democratic participation. To do this, they must involve citizens and experts, a novel arrangement that will benefit both cohorts. For the former, a more inclusive form of deliberation will offer an opportunity to contribute to political discussion and be listened to by people with political or policy‐based authority. For the latter, it will provide a venue through which expertise can be brought to bear on democratic decision making without risk of scapegoating or politicisation. More broadly, deliberation that prioritises dialogue (over, say, opinion change) affirms the principle that political decisions reflect value judgements rather than technically ‘right’ or technically ‘wrong’ answers—judgements that are legitimate if arrived at through discussion involving the people due to be affected by the resultant policy. This article sets out the advantages of this form of deliberation—which bears some similarity to certain types of citizen science—in the context of the UK government’s responses to Covid‐19; both the confused decision making evident to date, and the forthcoming re‐opening phases that will prioritise or advantage some constituencies over others.

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  • About the author

    Harry Pearse, Affiliated Researcher - Centre for the Future of Democracy

    Harry is a Research Associate at the Centre for the Future of Democracy, working on the strengths, uses and permutations of contemporary deliberative democracy. His research develops a critique of representative or electoral democracy’s capacity to meet certain democratic ideals, and asks whether or to ...   Learn more